Day or night, holds no relevance in Sreejith’s life that has been dedicated to fighting for justice.

700 days of despair This Kerala man protests over brothers death in police custody
news Protests Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 18:35

As the day breaks and Thiruvananthapuram city gets to business as usual, Sreejith wakes up to see the sight of children going to school, men and women walking past him to their workplaces, with their bags in hand. Others zoom past him in vehicles of various shapes and sizes.

As the afternoon sun blazes, Sreejith watched the busy roads get busier. And as the day comes to a close, it is the tall street lights that keep him company. Until the next day break. 

The day, or for that matter, the night, holds no relevance for Sreejith, a native of Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram.

He has been protesting outside the Kerala Secretaraiat for 700 days, demanding justice for his younger brother, who was killed in police custody. 

During the day, Sreejith sits on a mat, leaning against the secretariat compound wall. He has pasted many newspaper cuttings on the wall.

In his lone battle, it is a grey bag that has been with him from day 1- the bag in which he carries all the documents related to his brother Sreejeev's death. 

"It's no suicide like the police claimed it to be. It was murder," he tells TNM.

Sreejeev was picked up by the Parassala police in May 2014 on allegations of theft. Days after this, he breathed his last at a hospital. While the police claimed that Sreejeev had consumed poison, Sreejith alleges that the police murdered his brother.

Two years later in 2016, the Police Complaints Authority found the police version to be false and came to the conclusion that Sreejeev had indeed died of custodial torture. Although Sreejith and his mother Ramani got Rs 10 lakh as compensation from the state government, Sreejith has been protesting since 2015, demanding action against the police officers responsible for his brother's death. 

In the last 700 days, Sreejith has gone on hunger strikes many times. Although his health has deteriorated drastically, his spirits haven't, he tells TNM.

Earlier this week, Sreejith received a communication from the Home department, informing him about a CBI inquiry into Sreejeev's death.   

"Although it has come very late, I can only think of it as the result of our perseverance and the prayers and support of many people who helped me," Sreejith says. 

The last time TNM spoke to Sreejith was in February this year, when he had launched a hunger strike. But on Friday, Sreejith sounded optimistic.

However, it is too early to end his struggle, he says. 

"I cannot abandon my battle before the CBI inquiry actually begins. So many developments in this case have been confined to papers, with no action. Once the inquiry begins and I know it’s going in the right direction, I will end my struggle. If we don't rise against the powerful, who else will?" Sreejith asks. 

Sreejith was working as a helper in a studio in Thiruvananthapuram, when Sreejeev passed away.

"My elder brother met with an accident a few months ago and is unable to go for work. Mother too has not been keeping very well. Our relatives have been constantly helping us financially," Sreejith says. 

The 701th day of his protest will see another round of hunger strike.

(All photographs by Sreekesh Raveendran Nair)

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